How to Ruin Character Arcs A La Game of Thrones

Note: This post is dark and full of spoilers from S8E5.

Sunday treated us to the fifth episode of season 8 of Game of Thrones, and it left watchers and readers raging. Between Dany activating “Mad King” mode and burning King’s Landing to the ground, Jamie going back to Cersei, and Cersei getting the fastest, easiest death of most characters of the show, it left people wanting. And lighting pitchforks.

Now, let it be clear, it’s not that the episode didn’t go the way I wanted that has me upset, it’s the destruction of the character arcs that has my blood boiling as much as Dany…or any of her victims for that matter. This episode–frankly the last two–have shown a gross break away from the character arcs that we’ve grown to love over the past 8 seasons. In one episode, these fleshed out characters get a 180 makeover leaving us all feeling a bit whip lashed.

So let’s go through and talk about just how our beloved characters were ruined.

Daenerys Targaryen

Yes, ladies and gents, we’re going to pounce on the Mother of Dragon(s) herself first. To begin, I’d like to say that I’ve read an incredible article about how Dany’s fall into madness makes sense, and I suggest you take a look at it. Check out “Game of Thrones”: Don’t be shocked by Daenerys– her King’s Landing turn was very much earned written by Amanda Marcotte.

In summary, in the article, Marcotte explains how Dany’s descent shouldn’t be a surprise to us as George R.R. Martin, and the show writers, have hinted at her fits of rage more than once in the series. From killing the “masters” to free the slaves to frying Sam’s father and brother, Dany has shown she doesn’t handle people disagreeing with her ideology very well.

But, here’s the caveat. Dany started out the series basically as a brood mare for her brother to help him gain power. She was married off to Khal Drogo where she was subsequently raped and taken advantage of until she learned how to bend him to her will instead. She started from the ground up, learning how to find a foot hole in a situation that would otherwise see her as a captive.

Throughout the series, Dany’s main focus has been going to Westeros and claiming the Iron Throne which is her birthright–up until we learn that Jon Snow is a Targaryen of course. She works on building her army through taking command of the Dothraki, freeing the Unsullied by killing the masters, raising her three dragons, and swaying people to her side, all the while fighting to convince everyone that she’s not like her deranged father. Robert Baratheon sends assassins after her when she’s just a girl because of the threat she poses (what if she truly is like the mad king)? And yet she survives it.

Varys makes a point to say that when a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin to see on which side it lands. Dany could have become a powerful queen or an evil dictator, and unfortunately, the latter came into play. And it’s maddening. It makes sense that with the loss of Jorah, two of her children, and her best friend, Missandei, that she would go into a spiral of rage, but that doesn’t mean she had to go all Mad King. While she–along with many characters– has demonstrated violence towards those against her, she’s also shown mercy, love, and caring.

The thing that angers me the most is that the writers set it up that the fact that Jon doesn’t want to boink her is what sends her over the edge. Can we please stop the themes of women going crazy because they’re scorned by a guy?

When the Lannisters surrendered at King’s Landing, that should have been it. I would have understood her wanting to go after the Lannister army, and Cersei of course, but to destroy the entirety of King’s Landing along with all the innocent people within? It seems contrary to her character. She’s fought all this time not to be her father. She has one dragon, one child, left, and she puts him completely at risk to take King’s Landing and destroy all of the people. It doesn’t do her character justice. She basically destroys the very thing she’s come to claim. If the city is burnt to the ground, who’s going to serve her? Never once in the series (that I can recall) has she intentionally caused the deaths of children or mothers. And yet here, she destroys every single one of them, and without any remorse.

This isn’t the Dany that we were presented with.

Jamie Lannister

Where to begin? We all hated Jamie at the beginning when we were introduced to him banging his sister followed by him shoving a kid out the window to protect their secret. Great moral compass there, Jamie.

But, as the seasons progress, we get to see him and Brienne together and learn that he killed the Mad King to save King’s Landing. He didn’t want to see people burn to death, so he stuck a sword in the man and became the loved and hated King Slayer. Through their relationship, we see a softer side of Jamie. He loses his hand protecting her. He swears to fight by her side during the battle against the Night King. He abandons Cersei (granted, she gave him a death threat) because he doesn’t believe in what she’s doing and how she’s hurting the people. He meets Bran again and tells him that he’s not the same man he once was. And then Jamie shows even more growth by being with Brienne and bedding her, treating her like a woman rather than some object. He even says he’ll stay with her while the battle at King’s Landing happens.

And then…he finds out Dany is going to kill Cersei, and he does a 180 and runs back  to Cersei.

Wait, what?

Didn’t he just get a death threat from Bron that he’s been hired by Cersei to kill Jamie and Tyrion?

Oh, but no, your sister and bed buddy is in danger, so let’s forget the woman that you fell in love with, and new moral compass, and race your butt right back to King’s Landing. Right before Dany massacres everyone.

Nice.

The debauchery of Jamie’s character continues when he sees the devastation that’s happening at King’s Landing and he does nothing to stop it. Jamie, the King Slayer, the man who murdered the Mad King to save the people, just shoves his way through the crowd to get to Cersei. He fights, and almost dies by, Euron to get to her. And in his final moments, he holds her, comforts her, and confesses his love for her as they’re crushed by rocks.

BY ROCKS.

So much for not being the “same man.”

This is not how you end a character’s arc. He literally had everything going for him at Winterfell, and even after Bron threatened him, he had no intentions of going back. But the moment he hears Cersei is in danger, he throws all his morals aside and rushes to her. Hell, he’s demonstrated more loyalty to Tyrion by helping his brother escape the cells than he has to Cersei, and he still chooses to be with her rather than to fight at his brother’s side.

Bad call, writers. Bad call.

Tyrion Lannister

I was rooting for you, sir, I really was.

First off, what happened to the “I drink and know things” Tyrion that we were treated to in the first few seasons of the show? A man of witty words, fascinating quips, and enough intelligence to lead an army into war at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. He became Hand to Dany and seemed to remain the same Tyrion for awhile.

And then season 8 happened.

Suddenly, Tyrion has turned into a bumbling fool who can’t anticipate what’s going to happen in battle. He’s constantly apologizing for his mistakes to Dany, underestimating his sister and her supposed good will, letting his brother go and run back to Cersei (thus betraying Dany), and selling out Varys which he’s never once done before.

Varys has been one of his closest companions and a fellow adviser through this all, and yet when Varys demonstrates his hopes of Jon being the one on the throne, Tyrion rushes to Dany to let her know and Varys pays the price. Granted, it’s treason. It makes sense. But since when has Tyrion had an issue with treason (ie. killing his father on the toilet, freeing his brother, turning against the Lannisters, etc).

No, we’re left with a man half the character he once was (no pun intended), and with little intrigue and all hot air. Tyrion’s character hasn’t been done justice whatsoever, and while I do appreciate that he did try to save the people of King’s Landing, if he’s so smart, he probably should have realized his queen wasn’t going to listen to him and go bat-shit crazy, destroying everything he knows and loves.

Tyrion, my friend, you know nothing.

Jon Snow

First off, pet the damn dire wolf, Jon Snow.

There, I said it.

Okay, I think we can all agree that Jon is very much Mr. Broodypants who doesn’t have the best battle tactics, and craves to be the hero. Even if he doesn’t want the Iron Throne.

We’ve spent all of Game of Thrones getting to learn the honorable Jon Snow. Friend to Wildlings. Killer of white walkers. The mighty warrior of the Battle of the Bastards.

The knower of nothing!

Okay, scratch that last part, at least until season 8.

I’ve cheered for Jon up until this point. He’s demonstrated leadership in his fight against Ramsey, and his quest to capture a white walker to convince Cersei to follow them into war (even though he was probably a fool to believe she’d actually do it). And despite his poor battle tactics in the fight against the Night King, he’s at least stayed true to his character. He wants to defend his people and the North. He wants to protect all of Westeros from these demons.

And then he finds out his lineage, and suddenly Jon is just incapable of reason. He blindly follows Dany to fight at King’s Landing, pushing men who are already exhausted from the fight against the Night King. He doesn’t necessarily agree with her tactics, but she’s “his queen” and he’ll do what she says. In the fight against King’s Landing, he at least gets back some of his honor and tries to stop his people from killing the civilians, but it’s like he’s lost any sort of power or sway that he actually has over the situation. No one is listening to him (unless they’re running from the fire-breathing dragon). And despite warnings, he just blindly follows along. Like a sheep led to slaughter.

I don’t want his character to end this way, not as a puppet to Dany or to his own ignorance.

Maybe he should have stayed with Ghost and Tormund in the North.

This is what you get for not saying goodbye to your dire wolf, Jon.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Author Interviews

Whether you’re a blogger interviewing an author, or an author responding to a blogger’s questions, it’s very important that you both provide quality and professional work when it comes to interviews. I’ve been interviewing authors for over a year now, (and been interviewed as well) and I’ve noticed a few things that both help and harm the interaction. So I’m going to divide this up between Do’s and Don’ts for both authors and bloggers.

Authors

  • Do
    • Provide all material requested from the blogger the first time around.
    • Edit your responses (spellcheck/use proper grammar and capitalization) so the blogger doesn’t have to fix it.
    • Provide high-resolution pictures for yourself and your book covers.
    • Get your material to the blogger on time.
    • Answer all the questions (unless otherwise agreed upon) and provide interesting information. One-word responses won’t engage the reader or the interviewer.
    • Post the interview around to your social media platforms and give the blogger credit.
  • Don’t
    • Badger the blogger about when your interview is coming out or keep requesting changes (unless you have a book coming out and need to provide a sale link).
    • Act rudely towards the blogger. They’re doing you a favor by creating the interview for you.
    • Answer questions dishonestly
    • Cut down other writers or bloggers in your answers.
    • Ghost the blogger.

Bloggers/Interviewers

  • Do
    • Get questions to the authors when promised.
    • Provide a designated day that you’ll post the interview and stick to it.
    • Provide the author with a link to the posted interview so they can share it around.
    • Review the answers before you post it on your site in case of errors or controversial responses (depending on your site’s dynamics).
    • Answer any questions the author might have about the interview or provide clarification.
    • Be honest to the author about what they can expect (are you posting the entire interview or just portions of it?)
  • Don’t
    • Act rudely towards the author. You two are trying to work together to help one another.
    • Post the interview late or not at all.
    • Ignore the author’s concerns if something is posted incorrectly in the interview.
    • Ghost the author.
    • Promise a posting date until after the author has provided their material. (I’ve missed posting interviews because authors didn’t give me their information in time).

These are just a few ideas to keep in mind while interviewing and getting interviewed. Bloggers and authors should remember that they’re working as a team. Together, they can provide exposure to each other. I’ve read far too often how authors have lashed out at book reviewers, bloggers, or interviewers for petty reasons. Bloggers can’t post interviews without authors, but authors can’t gain exposure without the help of bloggers. Work together harmoniously and you will both succeed.

If you both find that you’re on completely different pages, then it’s also okay to politely agree to go your separate ways. What it comes down to is respect. We’re all professionals here, and it’s important to treat each other like people and not invisible faces.

 

The Calm Before the Storm (A Game of Thrones Discussion)

Game of Thrones season 8 demonstrated a common theme of the “calm before the storm” of battle. Before everything goes to hell, the characters get their final moments together.

Note: Be warned, for this post is long and full of minor spoilers.

Readers and watchers have waited in anticipation, counting down the days when Game of Thrones would return to the screen. Theories and speculations bombard Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media outlets, some reasonable, others extremely far fetched but still fun. It’s hard not to see some advertisement or merchandise about GOT when you get online.

Finally, on April 14th, we returned to the iced-over world of Westeros.

And responses to the show were lackluster.

In fact, many people have complained that the first two episodes were merely full of dialogue and nothing actually happened. There was no fighting, no epic dragon battles, nothing that entirely felt like GOT except for the random sex scenes and witty banter. With the trailers promising epic fights, it’s not surprising that people would feel a little disappointed that they didn’t get that action immediately.

However, I think people fail to see what GOT did do for us.

The show demonstrated a common theme of the “calm before the storm” of battle. Before everything goes to hell, the characters get their final moments together. For anyone who has seen the show or read the books, we know that George R. R. Martin is pretty merciless. No one is safe, so this may be the last time we get to see our beloved characters that we’ve followed over the years.

Episode 1 does a wonderful job of bringing characters together again who haven’t seen each other since the first season. All the still-living Starks are finally back at Winterfell. Arya and Jon reconnect for the first time since the tender moment in season one when he gave her Needle. Jon gets to see Sansa and Bran. It’s heartwarming and something many people have wanted to happen. At the same time, we get a lot of call backs to season one:

  • Arya leaping in Jon’s arms to hug him
  • The Starks greeting a ruler (Robert/Dany) at the front gate
  • Jamie and Bran sharing a moment at the end of the episode, an echo of when Jamie shoved Bran out the window
  • A boy climbing the walls/tree of Winterfell to see the approaching royalty

It’s a nice reminder of something we haven’t seen for so long.

Episode two goes deeper into character development, giving them a chance to share one last moment together before the coming battle. For the first time, enemies-turned-allies  break bread together. Think of the scene around the hearth with Tyrion and Jamie (Lanisters), Tormund (Wildling), Brienne of Tarth (once a knight for the Baratheons then a protector of the Starks), etc. This is a profound moment, especially when Tyrion jokes to Jamie about how he’d love to see the look on their father’s face if he knew they were willing to fight and die at Winterfell. There are no Houses at this point, just people coming together to fight for the living.

You also get many special moments for individual characters:

  • Brienne is officially knighted by Jamie
  • Arya has sex for the first time with Gendry
  • Arya and the Hound reunite after she left him for dead (which is just a funny scene)
  • Jon, and then Dany, learn about his true heritage
  • Theon returns after leaving Winterfell in shame and pledges to fight for them and protect Bran.
  • Sansa shines as the Lady of Winterfell and a defender of the north, despite Dany’s claim to the throne.
  • Brienne and Jamie share a tender moment when he promises to fight for her.
  • Podrick sings a song to pull the episode together (wonder if Ed Sheeran will cover that one too)
  • Missandei and Grey Worm pledge their love and a future with one another

Yes, the episode is filled with dialogue. No, there aren’t action scenes or daring quests for us to talk about. But the depth in what we do receive with the characters can’t be ignored.

Books and movies are known for this “calm before the storm” so writers can make the readers/watchers feel and care about the characters before the inevitable battle. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Harry talks with his deceased loved ones before his fight with Voldemort. It’s a slow, quiet moment where he has to face his fear and he knows he has his family to back him. Likewise, he talks with a ghostly Dumbledore to understand his purpose in the battle, and in the world, before the final fight at Hogwarts. In Lord of the Rings, we get moments with the characters preparing for battle and saying final goodbyes or offering encouragement. In the Hunger Game series, more than once Katniss gets quiet time with her family or Gale or Peeta before everything goes to hell. Think about Katniss and Peeta kissing in the cave before they threaten to both eat the poisonous berries. These scenes are what helps us connect with the characters and makes us care what happens to them. Game of Thrones has done this many times like when Rob and Talisa sweetly agree to name their unborn child after Eddard Stark just before the horrible Red Wedding scene.

So why such a negative reaction to GOT season eight? Could it be because fans had to wait over 500 days to see a brand new episode? Is it because we’ve just gotten so use to the blood, guts, and death that we’re not used to character development anymore? Who knows. I personally enjoyed the episodes because I know when the battle comes, and the characters fall, I’ll at least have had some closure in their relationships with each other. I’ll care what happens. And I’ll mourn deeply for them.

I do this in my own writing, not just for my readers, but for myself. I know who isn’t going to make it, and I want to make sure they have a chance to say what they need to say before they die. It’s closure for me as the writer as well. Here’s a character I’ve spent months writing about who’s no longer going to be with me. Of course I’d want to find a way to say goodbye, and I do that through the “calm.” In the same way, I want the chance to say goodbye to the characters I’ve watched for several years before they pass (and before the show ends).

You’ll get your battle next week, I’m sure. And I think, in the end, we’ll appreciate the two episodes we got with our characters before the series comes to a close.

Wolf Pit Draft Complete!

I did it.

After 6 grueling months, several weeks of depression, and enough overtime at work to last me a lifetime, I finally finished the first draft of The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit. Book 1 clocked in at about 76,000 words. Wolf Pit? As of now, she’s a whopping 99,000 words. Granted, she still has to go through editing, but I’m headed in the right direction.

So what does this mean for the final piece?

Ideally, I would like to publish Wolf Pit by December 2019. I’m not officially making this the date, as it’s going to depend on a couple of things.

1. I’m attempting to get accepted to #writementor with my YA fantasy book Dragon Steal. If I’m selected, I’m going to spend the summer working with a published mentor to get my book in shape for an agent showcase. That means PDD might have to get pushed back a bit.

2. Editing. Editing takes a lot of time and the book is longer than the first one. I need to do my revisions, I have to send it to my co-world-creator, AE Kellar, to pass her inspection, I need a few sensitivity readers to look it over, not to mention my main editor Leona Bushman will have to rip it apart so I can rebuild it. And after that, I have proofreaders who need to review it. That all takes time, and I don’t want to rush it. So, if I don’t make the December deadline, I imagine it’ll be ready by early 2020.

I’m sure I’m going to get the stink eye from some of my readers and a scolding from fellow authors. Why is it taking me so long to put out a book? Well, there are a few factors. I work a 40+-hour job each week, volunteer for The Iowa Writers’ House, and I’m a Director of The Writers’ Rooms. On top of that, I spend time marketing my main book, querying Dragon Steal, blogging, interviewing authors, etc. It all takes time, and when writer’s block or depression hits, that means it’s going to take even longer. I honestly don’t take many breaks from the computer. I’m usually always doing something when it comes to writing, even if it’s not for PDD specifically.

Believe me, it’s not that I don’t consider PDD a priority, I just have to make sure I pay the bills and put food on the table. And at the same time, I have to take care of my mental and physical health, which have both been up in the air over the past year. I wish I could write as a full-time author and produce more, but at this point in my life, that’s not a possibility. So while I hate to delay the books, it’s something I just have to do. That’s why I try to keep my patreon updated so that people have short stories about the characters they can read while the book is in production.

Now, that all being said, what’s Wolf Pit about? (Spoilers: If you haven’t read PDD 1, I suggest you not read the book promo).

Tess Montgomery isn’t your typical member of the Chicago wolf pack. In fact, she’s not a wolf at all. She’s an adopted fire magus of the pack and thus doesn’t always “play by the rules.” When her father and her best friend Nick are kidnapped in what the parahumans assume is a Hunter operation, Tess’s pack is thrown into turmoil. With Alpha Paytah unable to step outside the bounds of his new position as Violet Marshall of Chicago’s Purple Door District, Tess takes the reins to plan a rescue attempt.

Meanwhile, Nick and his fellow wolves find themselves in a world of battle and bloodshed. The Hunters have set up an illegal fighting pit where the strongest survive and the weakest are traded or killed. It’s all Nick can do to keep up the spirits of his packmates and help them escape. Or survive long enough until they’re rescued.

Unfortunately, Tess’ rescue mission fails spectacularly, leading to her capture. She finds herself the unwilling guest of a local Hunter named Arjun. Handsome, charming, and deadly, Arjun tries to convince Tess that not all Hunters are the enemy.  He even offers to help her find her packmates. But is he true to his word, or does he have his own wicked plans in mind?

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this book and many POV switches so you can experience what’s happening both in Tess’s world and Nick’s. It was a challenge to provide equal time to both, but I’m hoping it works out.

I’m really excited to share the cover and the story with all of you. The cover I’m planning to release on May 1st, 2019 in its full glory. Those of you who are patrons, however, get to see it early 😉 That’s my gift to you since my story this month is going to be a bit late due to finishing up PDD.

I want to thank you for following me on this crazy journey/adventure, and I hope you’re excited for Wolf Pit.

Meditation and Writing

Those of you who have followed my blog long enough know that I like to periodically spend time talking about mental health. As someone with depression and anxiety, it’s important for me to find ways to relax my mind so I can heal and also focus on my writing. Most people also know that I suck at self care, and it’s something I’m trying very hard to learn.

Recently, I started attending group therapy that focuses on the mind, body, and soul. I always thought I was awful at meditation (I still struggle with it), but the more I work at it, the more I realize how much it calms me. Sometimes I use my own writing as a form of meditation, typing out a stream of consciousness without any concerns about my language or where I’m going with it. I do that when I talk about my dreams, or if I’m having an episode where I just really need to get my emotions out. I generally call that my angry poetry phase.

But I digress.

Meditation is a habit that I think we can all benefit from, so I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned, and other kinds of meditation I do to ease my stress/anxiety.

Deep Breathing

This is probably one of the best and easiest ones to start out with. Whenever I get worked up (or wake up from nightmares like I did last night), I try to focus on deep breathing. Sit in a relaxed position and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You want to focus on making your belly feel soft. My guide suggests that you whisper “soft” when you breathe in, and “belly” when you breathe out. Try to do this for awhile. Even 5 minutes of deep breathing meditation can really help. It certainly helps me get through a bad work day.

Here’s a guided meditation that can help.

Music and Mindfulness 

Once you have the breathing down, try to be mindful of your body. I like to put on soft music, usually water mixed with song or music that focuses on peaceful sleep. There are also a ton of apps on your phone that you can download that have guided meditation or songs. The app Calm is a great example.

Lie down (or sit) in a comfortable position and turn on the music. Then focus on feeling each part of your body. Your arms, your legs, your fingers and toes, your head. Loosen each muscle one at a time and focus on your breathing and relaxing your body. Guided meditation can help you focus. Make sure you think about your body and don’t let your mind wander (easier said than done for us writers). If it does wander, that’s okay. Just pull it back into the moment.

Only have a few minutes? Try a quick 5 minute meditation for things like anxiety.

Imagery Meditation 

One of my favorite forms of meditation is something I didn’t exactly realize I was doing until I talked with my therapist. Imagery meditation is essentially when you create an image in your head and focus on that. It could be imagining light coming down and wrapping around you. It could be picturing water or waves crashing against rocks. Maybe you see yourself on a beach or in a forest. Or, in my case, I imagine a garden that only I can enter. Focusing on each detail gives your mind something else to think about other than stresses or anything else that’s bothering you.

Here’s a guided video for example.

Animal Meditation

Okay, so this might be something that I made up, but I think animal lovers can understand where I’m coming from. There are moments when I pet my birds or preen them where all my stress just goes away. The same thing happens when Aladdin, my sun conure, sleeps on my chest. I can feel his breath and his little heartbeat and it calms me. I find myself relaxing and focusing on them and their happiness, and it makes me happy in return. Imagine doing that with a dog or a cat. I bet you wouldn’t mind spending 10 or 15 minutes doting on them.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, often a more peaceful mind helps with my writing. The ideas flow more freely without bundles of anxiety and depression distracting me or clouding my brain. I’ve been playing meditative musical tracks while writing, and I can feel my anxiety go down while I work.

Writing can also act as a prelude to meditation. If you’re upset or filled with a bunch of emotion, write it out. Say everything you’d want to say without fear that someone is going to read it and judge you. Doing so can help you clear your mind and make you feel freer. It opens you up to meditation and writing your story.

To be honest, I usually find myself relaxing so much with the guided meditation, that I just fall asleep. As someone who struggles with sleep, I’m not going to complain about that. I’m quite new and rusty with it, but meditation has already started to help with my depression. I hope it helps you as well.

If you have any meditative practices you’d like to share, post them below!

Let’s Talk About Fanfiction

I’m sure you’re probably already squirming in your seat at the title. Fanfiction? Bleh! Who wants to read that?

You’d be surprised.

Fanfiction, for those who don’t know, is literature created by a fan of a TV show, book, movie, comic, etc. Fans like to put their own spin on the stories, create different theories that might not necessarily be canon, or even insert themselves into the show/book through a personal character. These pieces are posted on sites like Fanfiction, Wattpad, Commaful, and more. Check out more places at The Ultimate Guide to Fanfiction and Fanfiction Sites by Joanna Smith.

So what’s the problem with it?

Well, there are many complaints about fanfiction including: “You’re just taking someone else’s writing and making it your own. That’s not real writing.” “Fanfiction writers don’t know how to write.” “Fanfiction writing is awful.” “The stories aren’t canon.” “Fanfic is just loaded with Mary Sue characters.” “The stories are sexist.” “The stories are too gay.”

I’m not going to argue with some of these. Yes, people are indeed taking a known world and making it their own. It’s true, sometimes the quality of writing isn’t very good. No, often the stories aren’t canon because people are coming up with their own theories. And yes, a lot of Mary Sue characters pop up randomly.

As for there being too many gay stories…sorry, folks, but I’m totally fine with that.

Fanfic writers are almost treated as badly as the people who like Pumpkin Spice flavored things in the fall. How DARE someone enjoy a movie/book (or flavor)! What’s the problem? If someone loves or is inspired by a story so much that they want to write about it, then why not let them? Allow them to enjoy the idea that they can see themselves in the world they love, or they can shift the elements around so certain characters are paired together, or forgotten characters get more screen/page time. It’s not hurting anyone. If you don’t like it, then you certainly don’t have to read it.

Now, I realize there’s a lot of really bad fanfiction out there (due to poor grammar, storytelling, character development, and unsavory themes). I’m not going to say every kind of fanfic is okay, especially not when it deals with things we find taboo even in books we read today (ie. graphic rape scenes, child pornography, under-aged sex stories, etc). But if you’re complaining about poor plot, writing, and character development, how do you think people learn to improve? By practicing and getting critique.

When I started out writing, I read a lot of Fanfiction and wrote some myself. Was all of it good? Oh, heck no, but the thing is, the stories other people created helped me fall in love with the world even more. I’m going to use Redwall by Brian Jacques for example. This book series was my bread and butter. When I couldn’t get enough of the published stories, I went online and read as many Redwall fanfics that I could find. One time, I stayed awake all night in my parents’ room because I had to find out what happened to these new beloved characters. My dad woke to get ready for work and found me staring, wide-eyed, at the screen. Did I get any sleep that night? Nope. Did I fall in love with characters, the Redwall world, and weep for fan-made characters? Oh, you better believe it.

Fanfiction also taught me how to adjust my writing. I learned, grammatically, what was right, and what was wrong. As I wrote my own stories, people would poke at holes in my plot or offer me advice (sometimes in the form of a trolly comment), which helped me rethink what I was writing and fix my story. I got to delve into a world I already loved, with characters I created (or borrowed), and I also learned more about writing along the way! Fanfiction also helped me meet friends and other writers.

Roleplaying through a Redwall site actually introduced me to my co-writer.

Now, there is the controversy about people writing fanfic and wanting to publish it. Actually, someone kind of did do that *coughE.L.Jamescough* but at least she changed the names and setting a bit. Personally, I don’t think people should publish fanfiction independently or traditionally as it is the creation of another author. However, I see no harm in sites providing ads or “tokens” that provide a little compensation to writers courtesy of their readers. That’s not too much different from someone running a patreon campaign and getting readers to pay a certain amount each month to get a sneak peak at a new fanfiction piece.

But I know this is something that’s heavily debated, so feel free to leave your opinion below.

When it comes to my own books like The Purple Door District,…write fanfic to your heart’s content. If my characters and world inspire you to create stories of your own, then you write them and share them with friends! Practice your craft. My goal as an author is to encourage others to write, even if it’s in the world I created. I’m not going to lie, I have checked a couple of fanfic sites just to see if anyone has had the inclination to write something based off of my book.

Let the fanfic writers enjoy the stories and create ones of their own. Long after the original author is gone, her legacy will still live on in her books, and in the stories that her fans created of her series. What an amazing way to be remembered.

I say, write on, fanfiction authors. Write on!

 

Writing with Chronic Pain

I want to tell you a story, one that I tend to vaguely mention in posts with phrases like, “I have eye trouble,” or “I’m light sensitive.” Over the years I’ve stopped talking about it as much because I haven’t wanted to bother/bore people (and it’s just kind of a daily thing for me now), but I’m starting to realize when you don’t discuss chronic pain, people don’t realize the seriousness of the issue. And that while some things you do to alleviate pain may seem funny, it’s really not a laughing matter.

About seven years ago, something changed with my vision. It started with an ocular migraine. One moment I was fine, the next, my vision started to pixelate. A strange line appeared across my eye and kept pulsing so quickly I started to lose my vision. It got so bad that about 75% of my vision went out, and I had to grab onto walks just to walk around at work.

I thought I was having a heart attack.

Ocular migraines can last anywhere from moments to 30 minutes, and I’m on the longer spectrum. I’ve gotten them while driving, working, and writing. It used to terrify me every time it happened. Now? I’m just kind of used to getting them and just wait it out as best I can and hope that it doesn’t spark a full-on migraine.

About a month later, things got worse. My eyes had been wearing out faster than usual and I wasn’t sure why. Then one night, while I was looking at my computer, my vision completely doubled.

Ever since then, I’ve battled with pain in my eyes.

For seven years.

At the worst times, it feels like someone is shoving their fingers into my eyes and shining a bright light that I can’t look away from. My forehead is stuck in a vice. A certain level of light can start up the issue and then something as simple as looking at a computer or reading a book takes a painful toll on my eyes.

I’ve been to eye doctors and ophthalmologists. I went to the Mayo clinic. I tried medicines that have made me suicidal or caused insomnia. I’ve been told not to bother coming back because a doctor didn’t believe me. I’ve used prisms and been falsely diagnosed with lazy eye. I’ve tried eye drop after eye drop, changed glasses, had plugs inserted in my tear ducts, taken antibiotics for inflammation, etc.

The most anyone can tell me is I have severe dry eye, light sensitivity, and I used to have blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids. But even with all the treatments, and with my eyes as healthy as they’ve ever been, the pain is still there. I’m at least to the point that I don’t wake up in the morning and fear that I won’t have the eye strength to do work. But I don’t know how I’ll be in the evening when I want to write.

I live in perpetual darkness. The most light I might have on at my house in the evening is blue Christmas lights, or a single lamp, because more light than that is painful. And believe me, using full-spectrum lights for depression are NOT fun (though at least they help my mood).

To top it off, I also have chronic migraines. I take a medicine three times a day to keep them under control, but when they hit, they can be debilitating. And unfortunately, my eyes are the first to go down. I’ve thrown up because the pain was so bad. I’ve had to lay in complete darkness with cold cloths over my eyes and on my neck to stop the pulsing pain radiating through my skull and eyes. And there’s no telling how long the migraines will last. It could be a day. It could last several. If my eyes become even more sensitive to light, that’s generally my first sign a migraine is coming on.

I’ve had to fight tooth and nail at work to be placed in a darker location so I can actually perform my job. And I still have to wear a hat to block out what light comes near me because otherwise my eyes spasm and start to hurt. Sometimes I even have to wear sunglasses or put a shawl over my head to drown out the light. And you know, it gets tiring when people crack jokes about it. I see the looks people give me when they walk by and I’m wearing a hat inside or donning a pair of glasses so I can finish my work. I hear the snickers or snide remarks when I have my computer settings so low or use a blue background when writing so I can actually do something I love. I also hear the whole, “It’s just a headache,” comment or the scoffing, “WOW, you really are light sensitive, aren’t you?”

And it sucks. Because what people don’t realize is it also affects the things that I love most which are writing and reading. When I say that it takes me awhile to get through a book, it’s because it physically hurts to read for long periods of time. There are nights I want to write pages of my story, but if my eyes are having an issue, that goes out the window. I used to be over the moon when my favorite authors would come out with big books. Now I just dread seeing them because I know how much time and eye strain it’s going to take to get through the story. Yes, I know I can listen to audio books, but for me, it’s not the same. I can’t look at the text and visualize things as easily with audio books as I can while reading and holding books. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t use audio books. I have quite the library stacked up.

Reading used to be my stress reliever, and now I have to really work if I want to get through a story. And when it comes to editing my own stuff? It can be an absolute nightmare. I’ve had tears screaming down my cheeks trying to edit my writing because it hurt to read, but I needed to get my deadlines done. Even now while I’m writing this post I can feel my eyes watering and I’m closing them periodically to give them some rest. And it’s not just from staring at screens. It’s while I’m hanging out with people. Grabbing tea at a coffee shop. Gardening. Cleaning. Shopping at the store.

It’s always there.

I’m not writing all this to have people feel sorry for me, or to whine, that’s not the point. I just want people to understand that I do things like wearing sun glasses and hats or rarely pick up books these days not because I want to, but because of chronic pain. It’s not always visible, and believe me, eye problems and migraines have definitely caused my anxiety and depression to escalate.

I’m grateful the eye doctor I have now wasn’t like the others who told me not to come back. She stuck with me and has made things bearable for me. And we’re still hopeful that things will continue to improve over time.

So be kind to people who have invisible issues. You never know what’s going on behind their exterior wall.

Tips for Attending Conventions

One of the exciting (and scary) things about being an author is promoting your book at signings and conventions. Some people thrive on it, while others find it quite daunting, depending on the size of the crowd. Whether you’re eagerly awaiting your next convention or dreading it, there are a few things that you can do to make your table (and yourself) desirable to your customers and ways that you can also take care of your mental and physical health.

Presentation

  • Table display: Take time when setting up your table display. You want it to be eye catching and connected with your book in some way. Don’t just scatter things about. Have a method and direct customers’ attention to your most important pieces, whether that be the book, swag, newsletter, etc.
  • Appearance: You want to be yourself, of course, but there are ways you can dress to help promote your work. Perhaps wear a shirt with your book’s cover art or characters on it. Choose a saying from your book and proudly display that. Or just wear something that’s comfortable but also appealing to the eye, something that welcomes people to your table. Whimsical can also attract attention!
  • Bookmarks/business cards: Make sure you have plenty of these with you whether you’re at your table or walking around. This is a great way to make connections and also show off that you have all your ducks in a row. If they can’t make it to your table, at least they have something to take with them to look at later.
  • Elevator Pitch: Have an elevator pitch prepared for your book when you present it. This should last maybe two sentences or 15 seconds, something to engage the customers but not bore them. You don’t want to tell them your whole story over a five minute interval, otherwise what’s the point of buying the book? Now, if they ask more questions about it, be sure to answer them and let your passion shine.
  • Greeting People: You can set up your own routine for greeting people, but make sure to be friendly, open, and honest with them. Even if you’re having a down day, try to put on a smile and engage with your customers. You’re more likely to attract their attention and get them interested in your book.  Consider standing, too, when you greet people. You seem more engaged that way.
  • Dealing With Time Monopolizers: It happens. Someone stops at your table and starts chatting with you about your book but then goes off onto tangents or starts rattling off conspiracy theories while you’re still trying to sell. Obviously you don’t want to chase a potential customer away, but there are ways to halt the conversation. If another person walks up, politely say, “Excuse me” to the monopolizer and put your full attention to the other person. It might help them realize that you still have work to do. Try to disengage by saying, “It’s been great talking to you. I’ve enjoyed talking to you, but,” and indicate you need to get back to selling. And if they still won’t step back, you have to remember that this is a job. Sometimes you have to be a bit blunt and more curtly excuse yourself from the conversation.

Saving Money

  • Bring Food: When you attend conventions, quite often food prices are jacked up so you’re paying an arm and a leg for it. If the convention allows it, consider bringing your own food (sandwiches, power bars, chips, pita, etc). You’ll save money eating your own stuff and have plenty of it available too. Likewise, bring plenty of water too, because water bottles cost a ridiculous amount of money (and kill the environment). I typically just fill mine up at the water fountain.
  • Set a Budget: Just like the rest of the convention goers, it’s hard not to get swept up in all of the amazing books and items around you. If you plan to buy a few things, set a budget for yourself so you don’t spend more than what you make.
  • Purchase a Cart: You’re likely going to have a lot of items to drag around with you to conventions. Instead of straining yourself, and possibly risking medical bills by breaking your back, get a cart or dolly that you can easily move around with your merchandise. It’ll make loading and unloading much easier as well.

Health

  • Stay hydrated: It’s easy to forget to drink something while you’re busy greeting people and selling books. But it’s vital to stay hydrated. You’re going to be working the convention for several long hours, possibly in the heat. I’ve gotten sick from not drinking enough. So fill up that water bottle!
  • Eat: Same with drinking, make sure you eat something. You might want to wait until there’s a lull in people walking around, but you can take 10 minutes to eat a power bar or a sandwich. It’ll keep you energized and fight off the dreaded “hanger.”
  • Take a Break: If at all possible, try to take a break if you feel like you’re getting too overwhelmed. Maybe have a friend come with you who can cover the table while you go sit in quiet for a few minutes. Or, befriend your neighbors who can keep an eye on your things while you run to the bathroom or take a walk. It’s hard to be “on” for so long. Give yourself chance a turn off.
  • Wet wipes: This was actually a great suggestion from my friend Brian K Morris. It’s easy to start feeling sweaty, dirty, and just uncomfortable when you’ve been working your table. Have some wipes with you to clean your face, neck, and hands to help refresh you.
  • Wear comfortable shoes/clothing: I know this can be hard if you’re cosplaying, but try to wear something comfortable, especially when it comes to shoes. You don’t want to be hating your feet an hour into the convention.
  • Know the Ins and Outs of the Convention Place: You can save yourself a lot of stress if you know 1. where you’re supposed to set up, 2. where the entrances and exits are, 3. where the bathrooms and water are located, etc before you actually attend the convention. I’ve gotten so busy setting up before that I just blanked out on some of these basic things.

What about you folks? What kind of tips can you offer when attending conventions or signings?

Pirating Books

Pirating books. You’ve probably seen this topic in the news over the past couple of weeks and heard the heated discussion revolving around it. In short, a website called OceanofPDF, known for hosting pirated books, was recently shut down. Publishers like Penguin, HarperCollins, and Random House issued tons of take down notices, and eventually the requests went through. You can read more about it here.

This should be a good thing, right? A site that’s allowing people to essentially steal an author’s work is no longer able to distribute the pdfs. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of backlash in which authors are being called “Elitist” and selfish for wanting money for their work. Now granted, some of the people do have a good point. If they’ve already purchased the books and something happened to them, shouldn’t there be a way to get them back? Or what if they bought a paper version and want an e-book for the road that came out later?

First, if you lost the book, I’m sorry, but if you lost a DVD or music, you’d have to pay to get that back, too. If you want the e-copy, some authors will sell packages of e-books and the paper book, so you can just get it that way. Or just buy the e-book. Generally, e-books are priced a lot cheaper anyway. My paper book is $15, but my e-book is $3.99. I’m not asking you to pay full price for the e-book.

Some people have argued that 1. they don’t have the money for books or 2.  they can’t get them from the local library. Generally if you speak with a library about wanting a book, and there are enough requests, the library can buy the book or even loan it from another location. If you get the book around the time it launches, many authors put their novels on sale. Or they’ll do low sales or offer giveaways.

We’re not dragons stealing your money and cackling on top of our glistening hoard. Most of the money we actually make off of our books goes towards expenses in order to bring more books to you. Spend money to make money. So to have our work put on a site without our permission and to watch hundreds and thousands of people download it without us seeing a cent from it is…how is that fair?

I want to give you a look into how much it costs to actually publish a book. It’s different for traditional and self-published authors, but we all put money into it.

First, it starts with our time. I work a full-time job, and I spend most of my free time (what little I have), writing my novels. This is not just a casual hobby. This is something I want to turn into a profession, so I dedicate my time to it. I’ve taken courses in writing, storytelling, plot development, creative writing, (which costs money,) so I can create my books. It also causes a lot of emotional strain to do what I do. See Writing with Depression for clarification.

And then there are the other expenses once I’ve actually written the book. I have to pay for things like:

  • an editor
  • proofreaders
  • sensitivity readers
  • cover artist
  • promotional materials
  • book swag
  • programs like Scrivener and Adobe DC to format the books or a designer who can do it for me
  • buying the books themselves
  • tables at conventions to sell my books
  • hotels/gas/meals to travel and sell

It all adds up.

Most of the money that I’ve made from sales have gone back into my book or is being used to take care of costs for the next one. I’m not rolling in money, so yes, every dollar does help. Some people say, “Well, I’ll give you a review. That’s payment enough.” Look, any review is wonderful, and I’m grateful for it whether it’s good or bad. But the thing is, if everyone decided that’s how they were going to pay for the book, I’d have hundreds of reviews, but no revenue.

We pay money for movies, music, theater, etc, but when it comes to art and books, suddenly it’s just too expensive. I understand our economy is awful, and I’m drowning in debt as well. But it’s heartbreaking to realize that something I spent months or even years on is being handed out for free. If I want to give it away for free or drop the price, that’s my prerogative, and I would promote it so that people who are having trouble buying my book can get it for cheaper. Some say I get more readers if my book is given away for free. Hey, that’s great. I love getting more readers. But what about all the time and effort writers put into their craft? Does that mean nothing?

If it was just happening here and there, that would be one thing. But there are whole sites dedicated to this. I give books away. I reach out to libraries to see if I can get my books there so people who are low on cash can at least borrow the book. But that’s my decision and my right to do that.

I guess what I really want you to understand is that being a creator and doing something I love doesn’t mean that I don’t put a ton of work into it. I’m providing a service. Is it so bad that I would want compensation from it so I can keep creating and bring more stories to my readers?

I’d love to hear your opinions on it.

 

Self-Care for Writers

It seems fitting that I’m writing about self care after having to take time off of work due to a migraine. This is also why my post is coming out on a Wednesday. Normally I would have fought through it, kept working, and made it worse. The fact that I was going to write this post made me rethink my decision because, truthfully, if I’m going to tell you how to take care of yourselves, I need to listen to my own advice.

I’ve covered some of this in other posts, but I wanted to create a comprehensive list for anyone who feels burnt out or needs some support in regards to taking care of themselves. Many writers don’t know what kind of self care they should do when they feel low or if they need self care at all. Here are a few warning signs to start off.

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of desire to write or writer’s block
  • Irritability
  • Self-doubt or feeling hopeless
  • Overwhelmed

Some are you going to say, “Well, Erin, I feel this all the time!” I understand. I feel a lot of this as well, but when it’s starting to affect your everyday life, you need to step back and take care of yourselves so you can stay healthy. A healthy mind and body will lead to better writing.

  • Take a break/ Do something you love: If you’re feeling low and the depression is creeping in, try to take a break and do something you love. Even if you think it’s just “wasting time,” it’s not if it makes you happy. Play video games. Read a book. Go to a pet store and play with some critters. Host a movie night. Watch youtube videos. Or sleep! Basically do anything except write if writing itself is causing so much stress. Contrary to what others say, you don’t have to write everyday.
  • Sleep: Writers are pretty bad about getting enough sleep. Either we stay up too late or get up too early trying to get those words out. Consider adjusting your sleeping schedule so you’re getting more rest both for your brain and body. You’ll find you’ll become more productive and feel better.
  • Get off social media: If you’re struggling with self-doubt or comparing yourself to others, get off Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. Shut technology down for a day and focus on you. Studies say that people often become more depressed after seeing all the accomplishments or exciting adventures their peers talk about on facebook. I know when I’m feeling overwhelmed, shutting down technology is my best route to recovery. It’ll still be there when you log on the next day.
  • Shower/Take a bath: If you’re stuck with writing, take a shower. Some of my best ideas come out there. And if you just want to get away from ideas and relax, take a shower or a bath for your body’s sake. I love how the water pounds across my ears and silences the world. For a moment, I just feel safe and like the world doesn’t need me. I’m doing this for me.
  • Take time for yourself: Make sure you’re taking enough time to rest and relax. If all you’re doing is overworking yourself to get that book done or meet social media standards, you’re going to burn out very quickly. Take time, again, to do something you love, or take care of yourself. Even setting aside a half hour a day to watch a favorite show or sit under happy lights is a great way to decompress.
  • Chores: This may seem like a strange thing to add in here if you’re stressed, but sometimes getting chores done helps me unwind. Cleaning, paying pills, making medical appointments, going shopping, etc.. Sure, it might be boring or frustrating at the time, but by the end of the day, you’ll have accomplished so much. Last Sunday I managed to get a bunch of chores done and that cleared my mind up to write for a little while.
  • Therapy: If you’re struggling with crippling self-doubt, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, consider talking with a therapist. I see one regularly to help me keep my head on straight. People will say, “Oh, others have it worse” but whatever you’re going through is valid. If something is making you upset or hurting your quality of life, then it’s important to get that treated. Seeking out therapy is not a weakness. It shows strength.
  • Listen to your body: If you’re getting sick a lot, or you just don’t feel well, listen to your body. It may be telling you that it’s time to slow down. We only have one body and one brain. If either goes out on us, we’re in trouble. So take care of yourselves. If you’d tell someone else to go to a doctor, take off of work, or rest if they feel like you do, then please take your own advice.
  • Support team: Build a support team so that, when you’re struggling, you know who you can turn to. Maybe you just need someone to listen to you as you struggle through your writing ideas. Maybe you need a hug or a reminder that you’re enough. Either way, reach out when you need support. You don’t have to go this alone. That’s what’s both so important and wonderful about having a writing community.
  • Write your feelings: We may all get writer’s block, but I guarantee we can all write about how we’re feeling. No one else has to see it or know that you’re writing it. Create angry poetry, construct short stories, write a blog post…do whatever feels right to help you acknowledge your emotions and work through them.
  • Hydrate: When we get wrapped up in writing, it’s easy to forget some basic needs like drinking water. And sometimes we can forget that tea is a diuretic. So make sure you’re hydrating your body (even if it does mean a lot of pee breaks away from your computer).

These are just a few tips to keep in mind when things feel rough. I’m sure you all have your own self-care methods, so feel free to share them below!

Just remember, you matter, what you feel is valid, and you are worthy of self care.